By Darrell Todd Maurina: CNJ Staff Writer
In 1907, Charles Ledbetter came to Curry County when it was still a pioneer community only recently connected to the rest of the world via the new Santa Fe railroad line.
A few years later he became one of the first three graduates of Clovis High School.
“Charles Ledbetter was my mother’s brother,” said Clovis resident Dudley Bailey. “I never met him, but he was the only one in that family who really got an education.”
That high school diploma helped Ledbetter obtain employment as postmaster for Grier and later a schoolteacher, but it couldn’t keep him from being drafted into the Army as World War I broke out. Only nine people from Curry County were killed in that war, and Ledbetter was the last of the nine. The young corporal was killed on Nov. 7, 1918, at age 22 — four days before the signing of the armistice that ended the war, Bailey said.
The family learned the news of Ledbetter’s death via telegram and didn’t see his body for nearly three more years.
“My family has the telegram that when he was killed they said he was buried in the shell hole that killed him and two other boys,” Ledbetter said. “They did go back after the war and brought him home.”
Ledbetter’s body was returned to the United States in 1921, but the family was still grieving and Ledbetter’s father refused to look at his dead son.
“I know his father was tore up terribly with his son’s death and would not view the body,” Bailey said. “My dad, who was not a Ledbetter, was the one who viewed the body. The family would not.”
While the family was too hurt to acknowledge his return, others in Clovis wanted to take steps to honor him. When Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3015 was organized about a decade after Ledbetter’s death, the post founders decided to name it after Ledbetter and another man.
“I don’t know why (post organizers) personally picked him, but believe they just wanted to honor him,” said VFW Post 3015 Commander Dale Huft. “All veterans posts are named after someone who was killed in action in war.”
The post now has a display honoring Ledbetter with a photograph and biography.
“It’s an honor to have that post named after him,” Ledbetter said. “I’m proud and honored to be part of that.”